What’s on Your Playlist? Music While Working Out

We’ve all been there – those days when you have to dig deep to find the motivation to work out. And, universally, it seems like, “BAM,” putting on your favorite song or playlist has a transformative power over the way you feel about exercising. There’s a good reason for why this is. In the last decade, a lot of research has been done, helping experts understand why exercise and music go so well together. All of it boils down to the fact that music changes the body and mind during physical exertion. Pretty cool, right? For many athletes, music is essential to reaching peak performance. Some years ago, USA Track & Field officially disallowed the use of music during competitions because of the performance-enhancing edge it gave to athletes.

What can music do to help you during your workout? What can it not do is the better question. Music distracts from pain and fatigue, elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort, and some research shows it may even promote metabolic efficiency. Let’s look at these in more detail, and discuss some other benefits.

You’ve Got to Move It, Move It!

Tempo. Is. Everything. Ballads are not going to cut it if you need the motivation for a run. And, techno is going to feel off if you’re settling in for a yoga workout. The type of music you listen to sets the tone. A good beat for your workout helps keep a consistent, steady pace, using energy more efficiently, all in all making it easier on our bodies. Research indicates that approximately 120 – 140 BPM (beats per minute) is ideal. (120 BPM works out to tapping your finger on a table twice a second).

Also, it’s important to keep in mind that picking music isn’t as easy as queuing up a dozen high-energy songs. Memories, emotions, and associations for songs are crucial too. We relate certain songs with memories, and channeling that memory increases the power of the song and improves performance. Listening to that song you danced to in college has a way of transporting you back to a time in your life you felt carefree and invincible, and gives you that extra edge to finish off a tough workout.

A Beautiful Distraction

Science consistently shows that listening to upbeat music distracts athletes from pain, or what is called, “bodily awareness.” Why? Upbeat tunes have more information for our brains to process, which takes your mind off of counting the time left on the treadmill! Also, controlling and creating music in time to your pace (i.e., a personalized playlist) has an important effect on what is your perceived effort. You’re in control!

In the Mood

Whether working out or not, music elevates your mood. Listening to music allows self-awareness, and the ability to escape from the present moment. Music has an inspirational effect, and combined with exercise, running on a treadmill can feel like being on your favorite beach with the love of your life.
What’s your favorite track right now? What’s the soundtrack to your summer? What gets you moving? Let’s hear it. I love when my community weighs in.